Friday, June 17

Beating the birds and the slugs and ...

As we hadn’t got round to protecting our new strawberry plants we were picking the fruit before fully ripe to make sure we beat the eagle-eyed birds to them so we urgently needed to set up our strawberry protection. 

In the past we have used a straw mulch to keep the berries from the ground but the disadvantage of this is that the straw contains so many weed seeds that weeds were almost impossible to keep in check without uprooting the plants. The result has been that the plants in our old strawberry beds have disappeared under a mass of weeds.

To try and avoid a repeat situation we wanted to try a different approach to the new bed. We considered planting through weed suppressant membrane but discounted this. We didn’t want to permanently cover the soil as we felt that it would be difficult to apply a feed and also felt that the membrane could harbour slugs.

Then browsing the Internet we came across a biodegradable mulch. This is a sort of fabric made from plant starch which is said to last 16 weeks before breaking down into the soil. As that should be long enough to protect the ripening berries we decided to give it a try. 

The fabric feels rather weird - it’s very thin so we had to wait for a still day in order to lay it. 

Our strawberry patch is fairly large so the fabric was cut into strips and laid onto the strawberry plants. A cross was cut so each plant could poke through the mulch and then straw was laid on top of the fabric. The straw was really to keep the mulch in place as we thought being so light that any fairly breezy weather would whip it away.
Hopefully the fabric will last long enough for the strawberries to fruit and the straw to be removed.

That was still no protection against our feathered friends so we then covered the whole patch with netting held down with a few bricks.

I want all the plants strength to go into producing good plants and lots of lovely fruit so I am being kept busy cutting off the runners that are being sent out by the plants with gay abandon - it’s almost a full time job! When it comes to needing to renew the plants I’ll let some runners develop but this won’t be for a year or two.

Meanwhile the old weed infested strawberry beds are producing fruit too but these are being left to fend for themselves. Any fruit will de a bonus. We didn’t want to dig out the old plants until the new bed had proved it was going to provide us with a crop but once the fruiting season is over the plants will be dug out and discarded and the beds tidied up to make room for other crops.

If the biodegradable mulch proves to be successful we are thinking of using it between rows of carrot seedlings to cut down on weed growth under the enviromesh tents.

Other fruits update:
I was a bit concerned that the dry weather would adversely affect our fruit crop this year but things seem to be progressing well and from some fruits such as plums and apples we should have a bumper crop. The most excitement is that the nectarines and our Issai kiwi fruits are continuing to swell  The photo album below shows the state of our fruits at the moment.


  1. Your strawberry plants look very healthy. So many critters waiting for your ripe strawberries ;-). I am a bit lazy this year. Found some self-sowed alpine strawberries and transplanted them on container.

  2. Wow! That is a decent sized strawberry patch! I'm content with my handful of plants in my greenhouse until I figure out what I'm doing properly :-) Love 'n' hugs, Mel xx

  3. That's not lazy Diana - it's resourceful.

    Just hoping for lots of lovely strawberries Mel.

  4. Hope you get lots of lovely strawberries soon.

    Put the straw around ours today, we still haven't had a ripe one yet. Come on..!!

    Have a great weekend.


  5. Hope you get lots soon too Martin! Still we will be laughing when all those picking lots now have eaten all theirs!

  6. I've seen in the Wiggly Wigglers catalogue a product called "Strulch" [straw mulch] which is "mineralised wheat straw", and presumably sterilised, so weed-free? Only snag is it sells at £9.65 for a 100 litre bag!

  7. Lovely looking strawberry patch

  8. That is s minus point Mark and I wouldn't know how much straw you got in 100 litres. I always think of litres as being a liquid measure.

    It will look even lovelier with lots of red fruits to pick Cathy :)

  9. So interesting to find you have the same strategy. I've ended up with four new patches (one for each new variety) but I didn't want to throw out our favoutite (honeoye). I'm hoping one of the new ones is not a success so that I can have a patch to transplant some honeoye in the new area rather than throwing them all out.

    On the mulch front in recent years I have used strawberry mats (like big brassica collars) with some benefit, but this year they disappeared from the shops so that was that. Finaly I got round to finding a source of straw (from the local feed merchant - £3 a bale, I wos robbed)). I love it - but now will be watching for weeds like a hawk.

  10. My Sister lost all her ripe strawberries last week. The council bring the bad boys on to the allotment to do their community service. She put two and two together!

  11. We buy our straw from a local farm at £2.50 a bale, Mal. We've bought it in autumn to cover tender plants such as bananas and dahlias and often have then reused it on the strawberries.

    That's awful Matron - has she asked the supervisors if they saw anything? Surely these people shouldn't even be seen going onto anyone's plot.

  12. What a nice variety of fruit you have growing! I bought a quince bush a few years ago and it has yet to produce any fruit. My neighbor has a quince tree and said that I can pick the fruit. The squirrels always manage to eat all of it by the time it is ripe! We so want to make some quince jam!

  13. We only planted the tree last year, Robin when it had three fruits - a few more this year. The thing is we don't use jam so we need something else that we can use them for.

  14. That's really interesting about the straw. We've been trying to get some, but farmers here don't seem interested in selling it. But I hadn't thought about the weed importation. Goodness knows my strawberries are weedy enough already - they seem a magnet for couch grass, and are so difficult to weed.
    It does seem a good year for blackcurrants. Mine are over-heavy, but not ripe enough to pick yet.

  15. I never mulch my strawberries with anything and they're always fine. There's the odd one with slug damage but I can live with that. I do have to net them though otherwise the birds would have a field day. Looks like you'll be self sufficient in fruit this year.

  16. We just have a couple of bushes with ripe blackcurrants, Linda one is Ebony and the other Ben Connan. Strangely the other two Ben Coonnans haven't ripened yet and are right next to the one with ripe fruit.

    We really mulch the strawberries more to keep them clean than to protect from slugs, Jo and the black mulch fabric is to keep down weeds. It also claims to encourage good root growth which it may or may not do! Reflection back from the straw is supposed to help ripen under the berries. Commercial growers sometimes use a white fabric for the same reason. Apparently they do the mulch fabric in white but we couldn't find any.

  17. I like the sound of the bio degradable mulch, though I suppose the downside is that it will need renewing every year. One day, if I am a very good girl, I hope to have a strawberry patch that big! Yummy.

  18. Your fruit is all looking great...I have white currants this do I know when they are ready to pick??

    I have no red currants of the branches got damaged in the wind and the birds got to the rest.

    I am curious to know how the fabric 'mulch' works kind of looks like you have pout bin liners round the strawberries.

  19. When white currants are ripe they go translucent and you can see the seeds through the skins. Tanya if you are unsure pick one off and taste it.

    It does look a bit like bin liners but it is very very thin and feels sort of rubbery.


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